Anthropology Optional Syllabus

In Detail Study of Anthropology Optional UPSC Syllabus

If you are opting for Anthropology as your subject in the civil services Mains exam then you need to have a deep understanding and study of the complete anthropology syllabus for IAS.

The subject studies human as a whole and their behavior and relationship with other beings, societies, and cultures. The subject has a very wide scope and the UPSC anthropology syllabus is quite vast.

Now, as an aspiring IAS candidate, you are required to understand the subject at deep and be able to learn its practical implications in real life. So, if you are appearing for the Mains exam in the same subject you need to have a deep grasp of the subject to be able to get through. For that, you must cover the complete anthropology optional syllabus as guided by the UPSC.

To help the students with the same we have compiled here the anthropology UPSC optional syllabus that you should go through:

So, let us go through Anthropology UPSC Syllabus for Paper – I

1.1 Meaning, scope and development of Anthropology.

1.2 Relationships with other disciplines: Social Sciences, Behavioural Sciences, Life Sciences, Medical Sciences, Earth Sciences, and Humanities.

1.3 Main branches of Anthropology, their scope, and relevance:

  1. Social-cultural Anthropology.
  2. Biological Anthropology.
  3. Archaeological Anthropology.
  4. Linguistic Anthropology.

1.4 Human Evolution and the emergence of Man:

  1. Biological and Cultural factors in human evolution.
  2. Theories of Organic Evolution (Pre- Darwinian, Darwinian and Post-Darwinian).
  3. Synthetic theory of evolution; Brief outline of terms and concepts of evolutionary biology (Doll’s rule, Cope’s rule, Gause’s rule, parallelism, convergence, adaptive radiation, and mosaic evolution).

1.5 Characteristics of Primates; Evolutionary Trend and Primate Taxonomy; Primate Adaptations; (Arboreal and Terrestrial) Primate Taxonomy; Primate Behaviour; Tertiary and Quaternary fossil primates; Living Major Primates; Comparative Anatomy of Man and Apes; Skeletal changes due to erect posture and its implications.

1.6 Phylogenetic status, characteristics and geographical distribution of the following:

  1. Social Sciences, Behavioural Sciences, Life Sciences, Medical Sciences, Earth Sciences, and Humanities.
  2. Homo erectus: Africa (Paranthropus), Europe (Homo erectus heidelbergensis), Asia (Homo erectus javanicus, Homo erectus pekinensis).
  3. Neanderthal Man- La-Chapelle-aux-saints (Classical type), Mt. Carmel (Progressive type).
  4. Rhodesian man.
  5. Homo sapiens — Cromagnon, Grimaldi, and Chancelede.

1.7 The biological basis of life: The Cell, DNA structure and replication, Protein Synthesis, Gene, Mutation, Chromosomes, and Cell Division.


  1. Principles of Prehistoric Archaeology. Chronology: Relative and Absolute Dating methods.
  2. Cultural Evolution- Broad Outlines of Prehistoric cultures:
    1. Paleolithic
    2. Mesolithic
    3. Neolithic
    4. Chalcolithic
    5. Copper-Bronze Age
    6. Iron Age

2.1 The Nature of Culture: The concept and characteristics of culture and civilization; Ethnocentrism vis-à-vis cultural Relativism.

2.2 The Nature of Society: Concept of Society; Society and Culture; Social Institutions; Social groups; and Social stratification.

2.3 Marriage: Definition and universality; Laws of marriage (endogamy, exogamy, hypergamy, hypogamy, incest taboo); Types of marriage (monogamy, polygamy, polyandry, group marriage). Functions of marriage; Marriage regulations (preferential, prescriptive and proscriptive); Marriage payments (bridewealth and dowry).

2.4 Family: Definition and universality; Family, household and domestic groups; functions of family; Types of family (from the perspectives of structure, blood relation, marriage, residence, and succession); Impact of urbanization, industrialization and feminist movements on family.

2.5 Kinship: Consanguinity and Affinity; Principles and types of descent (Unilineal, Double, Bilateral, Ambilineal); Forms of descent groups (lineage, clan, phratry, moiety and kindred); Kinship terminology (descriptive and classificatory); Descent, Filiation, and Complimentary Filiation; Descent and Alliance.

  1. Economic organization: Meaning, scope and relevance of economic anthropology; Formalist and Substantivist debate; Principles governing the production, distribution, and exchange (reciprocity, redistribution, and market), in communities, subsisting on hunting and gathering, fishing, swiddening, pastoralism, horticulture, and agriculture; globalization and indigenous economic systems.
  2. Political organization and Social Control: Band, tribe, chiefdom, kingdom and state; concepts of power, authority, and legitimacy; social control, law, and justice in simple societies.
  3. Religion: Anthropological approaches to the study of religion (evolutionary, psychological and functional); monotheism and polytheism; sacred and profane; myths and rituals; forms of religion in tribal and peasant societies (animism, animatism, fetishism, naturism, and totemism); religion, magic and science distinguished; magic- religious functionaries (priest, shaman, medicine man, sorcerer, and witch).
  4. Anthropological theories:
  1. Classical evolutionism (Tylor, Morgan, and Frazer)
  2. Historical particularism (Boas); Diffusionism (British, German and American)
  3. Functionalism (Malinowski); Structural- functionalism (Radcliffe-Brown)
  4. Structuralism (L’evi – Strauss and E. Leach)
  5. Culture and personality (Benedict, Mead, Linton, Kardiner, and Cora – du Bois).
  6. Neo – evolutionism (Childe, White, Steward, Sahlins, and Service)
  7. Cultural materialism (Harris)
  8. Symbolic and interpretive theories (Turner, Schneider, and Geertz)
  9. Cognitive theories (Tyler, Conklin)
  10. Postmodernism in anthropology
  11. Culture, language, and communication: Nature, origin, and characteristics of language; verbal and non-verbal communication; social context of language use.
  12. Research methods in anthropology:
  13. Fieldwork tradition in anthropology
  14. Distinction between technique, method, and methodology
  15. Tools of data collection: observation, interview, schedules, questionnaire, Case study, genealogy, life-history, oral history, secondary sources of information, participatory methods.
  16. Analysis, interpretation, and presentation of data.

9.1 Human Genetics – Methods and Application: Methods for the study of genetic principles in the man-family study (pedigree analysis, twin study, foster child, co-twin method, cytogenetic method, chromosomal and karyotype analysis), biochemical methods, immunological methods, D.N.A. technology, and recombinant technologies.

9.2 Mendelian genetics in the man-family study, single factor, multifactor, lethal, sub-lethal and polygenic inheritance in man.

9.3 Concept of genetic polymorphism and selection, Mendelian population, Hardy-Weinberg law; causes and changes which bring down frequency – mutation, isolation, migration, selection, inbreeding and genetic drift. Consanguineous and non-consanguineous mating, genetic load, genetic effect of consanguineous and cousin marriages.

9.4 Chromosomes and chromosomal aberrations in man, methodology.

  1. Numerical and structural aberrations (disorders).
  2. Sex chromosomal aberrations – Klinefelter (XXY), Turner (XO), Super female (XXX), intersex and other syndromic disorders.
  3. Autosomal aberrations – Down syndrome, Patau, Edward and Cri-du-chat syndromes.
  4. Genetic imprints in human disease, genetic screening, genetic counseling, human DNA profiling, gene mapping, and genome study.

9.5 Race and racism, biological basis of morphological variation of non-metric and metric characters. Racial criteria, racial traits in relation to heredity and environment; biological basis of racial classification, racial differentiation and race crossing in man.

9.6 Age, sex and population variation as genetic marker- ABO, Rh blood groups, HLA Hp, transferring, Gm, blood enzymes.

Physiological characteristics – Hb level, body fat, pulse rate, respiratory functions and sensory perceptions in different cultural and socio-economic groups.

9.7 Concepts and methods of Ecological Anthropology. Bio-cultural Adaptations – Genetic and Non- genetic factors. Man’s physiological responses to environmental stresses: hot desert, cold, high altitude climate.

9.8 Epidemiological Anthropology: Health and disease. Infectious and non-infectious diseases. Nutritional deficiency-related diseases.

  1. Concept of human growth and development: stages of growth – pre-natal, natal, infant, childhood, adolescence, maturity, senescence.

Factors affecting growth and development genetic, environmental, biochemical, nutritional, cultural and socio-economic.

Aging and senescence. Theories and observations – biological and chronological longevity. Human physique and somatotypes. Methodologies for growth studies.

11.1 Relevance of menarche, menopause and other bioevents to fertility. Fertility patterns and differentials.

11.2 Demographic theories- biological, social and cultural.

11.3 Biological and socio-ecological factors influencing fecundity, fertility, natality, and mortality.

  1. Applications of Anthropology: Anthropology of sports, Nutritional anthropology, Anthropology in designing of defense and other equipment, Forensic Anthropology, Methods and principles of personal identification and reconstruction, Applied human genetics – Paternity diagnosis, genetic counseling and eugenics, DNA technology in diseases and medicine, serogenetics and cytogenetics in reproductive biology. 

Anthropology Optional Syllabus UPSC for Paper – II

1.1 Evolution of the Indian Culture and Civilization — Prehistoric (Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic and Neolithic – Chalcolithic).

Protohistoric (Indus Civilization): Pre- Harappan, Harappan and post- Harappan cultures.Contributions of tribal cultures to Indian civilization.

1.2 Palaeo – anthropological evidence from India with special reference to Siwaliks and Narmada basin (Ramapithecus, Sivapithecus and Narmada Man).

1.3 Ethno-archaeology in India: The concept of ethnoarchaeology; Survivals and Parallels among the hunting, foraging, fishing, pastoral and peasant communities including arts and crafts producing communities.

2. Demographic profile of India — Ethnic and linguistic elements in the Indian population and their distribution. Indian population – factors influencing its structure and growth.

3.1 The structure and nature of the traditional Indian social system — Varnashram, Purushartha, Karma, Rina, and Rebirth.

3.2 Caste system in India – Structure, and characteristics, Varna and caste, Theories of origin of the caste system, Dominant caste, Caste mobility, Future of caste system, Jajmani system, Tribe- caste continuum.

3.3 Sacred Complex and Nature – Man- Spirit Complex.

3.4 Impact of Buddhism, Jainism, Islam, and Christianity on Indian society.

4. Emergence and growth of anthropology in India – Contributions of the 18th, 19th, and early 20th Century scholar-administrators. Contributions of Indian anthropologists to tribal and caste studies.

5.1 Indian Village: Significance of village study in India; Indian village as a social system; Traditional and changing patterns of settlement and inter-caste relations; Agrarian relations in Indian villages; Impact of globalization on Indian villages.

5.2 Linguistic and religious minorities and their social, political and economic status.

5.3 Indigenous and exogenous processes of socio-cultural change in Indian society: Sanskritization, Westernization, Modernization; Inter-play of little and great traditions; Panchayati raj and social change; Media and social change.

6.1 Tribal situation in India – Bio-genetic variability, linguistic and socio-economic characteristics of tribal populations and their distribution.

6.2 Problems of the tribal Communities — land alienation, poverty, indebtedness, low literacy, poor educational facilities, unemployment, underemployment, health, and nutrition.

6.3 Developmental projects and their impact on tribal displacement and problems of rehabilitation. Development of forest policy and tribals. Impact of urbanization and industrialization on tribal populations.

7.1 Problems of exploitation and deprivation of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes. Constitutional safeguards for Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes.

7.2 Social change and contemporary tribal societies: Impact of modern democratic institutions, development programs and welfare measures on tribals and weaker sections.

7.3 The concept of ethnicity; Ethnic conflicts and political developments; Unrest among tribal communities; Regionalism and demand for autonomy; Pseudo-tribalism; Social change among the tribes during colonial and post-Independent India.

8.1 Impact of Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and other religions on tribal societies.

8.2 Tribe and nation-state – a comparative study of tribal communities in India and other countries.

9.1 History of administration of tribal areas, tribal policies, plans, programs of tribal development and their implementation.

The concept of PTGs (Primitive Tribal Groups), their distribution, special programs for their development. Role of N.G.O.s in tribal development.

9.2 Role of anthropology in tribal and rural development.

9.3 Contributions of anthropology to the understanding of regionalism, communalism, and ethnic and political movements. 


Best Anthropology Coaching for UPSC

Candidates who are taking Anthropology as an optional subject for the Mains exam should get enrolled in the best IAS anthropology coaching. With that, they will be able to have a deeper understanding of the subject.

Our expert and highly experienced faculty, Mr. Pradeep Sarkar have been teaching the subject for years. With this exceptional command on the subject, the students get to learn all the ins and outs of the paper in the best manner.

Related FAQs:

How does the anthropology coaching for IAS help prepare students for the Exam?

If you are taking coaching for anthropology you will get to revise and study the syllabus quite a few times and that will help you prepare for the exam in the right manner will increase your chances of getting through it. This is how we help the students in coaching.

How can you prepare for the anthropology syllabus for UPSC?

You should first start with getting a conceptual clarity of the subject and not just jumping on the syllabus right away. Because in the end, it is your grasp on the subject that helps you get good marks.

Apart from studying the syllabus of anthropology UPSC optional how do you prepare for the exam?

Apart from the syllabus, the candidate must take various mock-tests that we provide at the Sapiens IAS – anthropology coaching in Delhi. The candidate must also check previous years’ question papers to get a clear understanding of the important topics.

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